Actor/director Jon Favreau gets back to his indie roots with a new film about foodie culture and the Magic City.
Your film Chef, out this May, is quite a change of pace for you after your Iron Man movies. How did the project come about? Well, I haven’t done a little movie like this in a long time. For a while, it’s been big, fancy productions, and those are fun, but your voice is one of many. I was starting to miss the old days of not having a ton of resources, but having a tremendous amount of creative freedom. The idea hit me, and I wrote it in just a couple of weeks. That hasn’t happened to me since Swingers. What’s the premise of the movie? The idea is that the main guy, my character, started out in Miami and kind of made his name here. Then he was hired to run a French restaurant in Los Angeles and slowly gets used to the nonchanging menu of a fancy restaurant. When we meet him at the beginning of the film, he has lost his way a little bit and ends up getting into a Twitter feud with a food critic and loses his job. That’s when my ex-wife, Sofia Vergara, tells me to come back, visit my dad and see my son. Then a little adventure with a food truck takes off. The cast you assembled is quite outstanding. How did you manage that? We have Sofia, John Leguizamo, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson... we just got lucky, and I’m forever grateful that they signed on. Miami plays a big part in the film, but that wasn’t always your intention, was it? I really wasn’t planning on making the city so prevalent in the movie, but then, when I was making Iron Man 3, some friends of Robert’s showed me around and I loved it. Where did they take you? I told one of them that I was going to Ocean Drive to listen to Cuban music, and this guy, Craig Robins, says to me, ‘South Beach? For Cuban music? No! What are you doing tomorrow?’ The next night he picks me up, and we end up at Hoy Como Ayer in Little Havana. I fell in love with the place and decided I was going to set a scene of the movie there. It has such a magical feel to it. What other areas did you film at? We filmed a lot of food truck scenes around 10th and Ocean. We filmed at Versailles, the famous Cuban restaurant with those epic sandwiches. A lot of Little Havana ended up in the film because I really wanted to capture the history and culture of that area. And we did some great scenes in the lobby and driveway of the Fontainebleau. We shot quite a bit there actually. That hotel has special meaning for you, doesn’t it? It’s where my grandfather used to hang out back in the ’50s and ’60s. I love that it’s maintained that aesthetic and that opulent feel. I knew it would turn out beautifully on-screen and it did. This film is about food, so did you do much research at our local restaurants? Yes! Scarpetta! Ironically, around the time we had started filming, I had been a guest judge on Top Chef and had met the chef from there [Nina Compton]. That restaurant really spoiled us. I ate there more than my waistline appreciated.